About This Book

Grade Level Equivalent: K-2

Lexile Framework: 670L

Reading Level: 4.2

Guided Reading Level: M

Age: 4-8

Genre: Comedy and Humor

Subject: Christmas, Mexican and Mexican American, Cooking, Extended Families, Ceremony and Tradition

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Discussion Guide for

Too Many Tamales Discussion Guide

Too Many Tamales is a Christmas story that features a Hispanic family. It's also a tale about why it's better to tell the truth than to panic and try to cover up a problem. In the story, a girl named Maria helps her mother make tamales for the Christmas meal. When her mother leaves the kitchen for a few minutes, she tries on her mother's ring. Later, after her uncles, aunts and cousins have arrived, Maria realizes the ring is missing. She panics, and gets her cousins to help her eat all the tamales, trying to find the ring. When they find nothing, Maria realizes she has to confess to her mother—who, it turns out, has been wearing the ring all along. As the family cooks up another batch of tamales, Maria learns to laugh at herself and at what has happened.


  • Children will read a Christmas story about a Hispanic family.
  • Children will appreciate the importance of telling the truth and not covering up mistakes.

Before Reading Activities

Introduce the book and make sure that children know what a tamale is (a food made from corn meal, or masa, and meat). Explain that in Mexican-American and other Hispanic families people often eat tamales on holidays like Christmas. Ask them to remember the title as they read the story.

After Reading Activities

Ask children to explain the title of the book. Who thought there were too many tamales? Why were there too many? Go back through the story, pausing at the clues that Maria should have remembered, before she started eating the tamales. (Maria's mother takes the bowl from her before the tamales get made, and Maria's mother and father, not Maria, are the people who put the tamales together.) Ask children to share how they think Maria should have handled the situation.

Connect the story to social studies by talking about different kinds of Americans and the different ways they celebrate holidays. Review what children saw in the program. Ask them to identify ways in which Maria's family Christmas is like, and different from, their own. Have children list foods that are served at holidays in their families. If possible, arrange for children to taste tamales and other ethnic holiday foods.

Connect the story to math by having students make "tamales" from twists of paper. Have students take turns counting the paper tamales and using them in story problems. To illustrate the idea of probability, place a picture of a ring inside one of the twists of paper. Ask students to identify their chances of drawing the tamale with the ring out of a bowl of all the tamales.

Connect the story to communications arts by having children present the story as a class play. Encourage children from non-Hispanic cultures to rewrite the story, using foods from their own families instead of tamales.

Videos about folktales available from Weston Woods include:

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, ill. by Ed Martinez

Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto, ill. by Susan Guevara

Chato's Kitchen by Gary Soto, ill. by Susan Guevara

The Doughnuts by Robert McCloskey

In The Month Of Kislev by Nina Jaffe, ill. by Louise August

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. by Brian Pinkney

TO ORDER: For Public Library sales call 800-243-5020 / For School Library sales call 800-621-1115

This guide may be photocopied for free distribution without restriction.

Copyright 2008 Weston Woods.

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